It’s been a hot, humid summer here in the Washington, DC area. No matter how great things are going, that kind of weather makes it easy to feel frazzled. But if you’re also feeling stressed, overwhelmed or run-down the exasperation feels even louder! 

 

I’m used to pushing thru and toughing things out by focusing on the end goals. Being brought up on family phrases like “punch yourself in the leg to make yourself tougher” gives you a sense of my belief system. 

 

But this summer amidst spells of all that, I’ve actually tried the opposite approach: making the space in my schedule for time to do nothing particularly productive. To read a book just for fun. To paint. To take a nature walk at my local state park. 

 

Lo and behold, I found in these experiences an unexpected amount of joy and satisfaction. More energy. And great relief.

 

For even thou these little breaks were only hours at a time, they had the flavor of those long summer days when as a little girl I felt the freedom to flow naturally from one activity and day into the next, as my little heart pulled me, with that sense it would last forever. 

 

And so, incongruously, doing less work opened up my schedule even more. How is that possible?

 

It’s possible because I’d been wondering if many of the activities I’ve been doing doing doing were truly effective: perhaps they are either not getting me the end results I seek, or perhaps they are, but could be even more effective in smaller doses. Eek, really?! Do less?!

 

Then I learned experientially some clear examples: such as spending 1 hr working out at max intensity and leaving energized is more effective than 2 hrs at progressively diminishing intensity and leaving exhausted. In fact studies have shown that people spending more time at the gym actually burn less calories overall that day because they are so fatigued from the gym that they need to spend the rest of the day recovering (on the couch) rather than up and about energetically engaged in life’s adventures and activities. Hm, this sounds somewhat familiar to me.

 

Applying this idea to my work showed me that I could actually have better business results by doing less too! So I’ve stepped back from my long-time focus on working longer hours to working better hours. Essentially, to be doing less, but better.

 

Not only has this been a challenge to my usual daily habits, but to my fundamental mindset and belief system as well. Surely I’m not alone: our culture often celebrates the hardest working and most effort (regardless of if they are getting the best results). But this is a huge disconnect!

 

Yes, ok Hannah, let’s say all that is true. But what the heck does that have to do with these photos of paintings? 

 

I’m so glad you asked! Doing less but better in my business freed up more time for me to be doing some of the fun things I adore doing but for a long time have not been allowing myself to do!

 

Like reading. And nature walks. And painting. And sometimes even combining them! In this case, I’m sharing a few paintings in progress that were inspired by my nature walks to my new favorite place: Seneca Creek State Park. 

 

There are a series of paths through the park, some of which I’ve traveled. The shapes and destinations of these paths, the other people traveling on them, and the light and shade of the surrounding forest could now enter my awareness because I made the space for them. 

 

And this experience was so delicious, I went home and cleared the space in my art studio and in my calendar to continue and expand on all that by painting them. These photos are some quick shots of the paintings on my easel. It’s actually turned into kind of a thing! 

 

This summer has been a breakthrough: how I now handle burnout and stay cool is by doing less, but better.

 

It’s still a habit I’m forming, but will surely continue, for I’ve actually found myself delighting in (without guilt that I should be doing more!) many of the fun things I’d not been allowing myself to do, let alone take pleasure in. Does any of this sound familiar to you too?

 

What is your approach to handling burnout?  

And what are some things you’d love to be experiencing more of if you were doing less too?

___

 

By the way: I’ll be finishing up these Seneca Creek paintings and posting them for sale: check out my fine art website for updates and to see other artworks in my online gallery. And if you’d like to receive info about these and any other new paintings directly into your inbox, let me know!

 

Cheers, 

 

Are you planning an executive leadership offsite, a brainstorming session or a strategic visioning event?  

 

Contact me today! I’d love to be of service to you in co-creating the best possible experience for you and your team – including time for doing less, but better!

 

603-380-3366

www.hannahsanford.com

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 



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